Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Cultivation and possible domestication of feral and possibly wild yams (Dioscorea spp.) in southwest Ethiopia: ethnobotanical and morphological evidence.

Abstract

The far Southwest Ethiopians transplant wild plant species to their gardens. One of such plant is the Dioscorea that we studied to assess the knowledge of wild yam and process of domestication. The study links two types of evidence to obtain insight about the process of yam domestication. We analyze two data sets derived from (1) ethnobotanical survey using 231 semi-structured interviews; and (2) morphological study in 47 yam accessions. Our study revealed that domestication is still active in some villages. Knowledge of yam domestication was shared by 44% of the farmers' even by those that have never practiced its domestication. Farmers who can describe the trend of domestication and the morphotypes of domesticate represented 21 and 28%, respectively. Farmers who have recent transplants in their garden varied from 4% in Bench to 10% in Sheko. The domestication process described by the two ethnic groups is similar. The duration of domestication can take up to six years, but with most of the individuals, it only takes three to five years. By linking the two types of evidence, two evolutionary processes are distinguished: (1) populations of recent domesticate expressing a domestication syndrome possibly belongs to the wild D. abyssinica or D. praehensilis, and (2) plants of incipient domesticate that might be derived from volunteers or diverse types of hybrids. Each of these processes can lead to integration of wild genotypes into the cultivated gene pool, and hence, enhance genetic diversity of cultivated yams. The domestication practices of traditional farmers should thus be taken into account if yam conservation and improvement plans need to be established.